tv Inside Story Al Jazeera April 29, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am EDT
welcome to inside story. 2014 it was warmest year ever measured. granted, that's not thousands of years, but the readings we have line up well with the worldwide migration of the industrial revolution. through the decades of more and more intense use of fossil fuels by people in every corner of the globe. all this month on al jazeera america, we'll be producing programs and news reports entitled fragile planet. tonight we are taking an inside look at the politics around climate change. a lot of scientists say they're convinced by the gathering trends backed up by the data. a lot of politicians say they are not. but in the united states, the biggest economy and the biggest
burner of fossil fuels, a lot of science is paid for by politicians. they sit in state legislatures, congress, university boards, and approve this funding for basic science at the universities. by holding the purse strings, they have the power to encourage research they like and discourage research that may lead to uncomfortable conclusions. he's currently under suspension, he says, for running afoul of florida's attempts to avoid talking about climate change and he joins us now. mark, welcome to the program. briefly, why do you think you were suspended? >> what occurred was a conference call webinar where one of the agenda items was regarding wild life and habitat
adaptation to sea level rise by the florida wild life conservation commission. and in that discussion, i added that i thought it was important that the keystone xl pipeline not be permitted because it's really the lit mus test. and that really disturbed the moderator of the call who asked if that was a personal opinion or if i was representing that position as part of my job duties in the division of state lands. i made clear that it was just my personal opinion but that it was extremely important to whether we were or were not going to address climate change. >> would you say that it's -- >> he went on to say that -- >> i'm sorry. would you say that it's known by people who work for the state of florida either at your level or in other capacities, state universities, in science-related fields, that it's discouraged to talk about global climate change? >> well, from the reports that
we've seen from reporters, a number of people have been discouraged and, in fact reprimanded, maybe even pushed out. so unfortunately, i was not aware of a ban against talking about climate change so i sort of walked into the spider's web. >> have you been able to make amends and get back to work? do they want you to say something that you just don't want to say? >> i've been first put on reprimand and directed to take two days off using my annual leave and towards the end of that day was given a letter saying i'm on compulsory disability leave indefinitely until i can get a doctor to sign a form saying i'm fit to come back to work. >> we were given two statements regarding your case. the first is you were
recommended for violating standards of conduct including poor performance, insubordination, and conduct unbecoming of an employee and they also added the department of environmental protection has no policy banning the use of climate change. in fact, the department constantly monitors changes we identify in florida's ecosystems and works with other local and state agencies to ensure florida's communities and natural resources are protected. do you agree with the plain language of those statements? >> well, first off, the moderator of the conference call also reacted with concern whether she would be allowed to hold future conference calls because of my outburst and discussion about climate change. so something registered in her mind that i'd crossed a line that i didn't know was there. >> let's now bring in jeff rock into the conversation.
he's the director of the group called public employees for environmental responsibility. jeff, is the story like ones you've heard from other places in america? >> it is. it has a special florida style to it because what they do in florida is a little more extreme. but we find particularly in states that have the biggest challenges dealing with climate change, states like new jersey and alaska, politically, they're in deepest denial. they have ordered that they're not allowed to say anything approval. >> so if on state-funded research you find what for your coastal state is a kind of smoking gun, the state, if you have a governor who's not really that interested in talking about climate change, could make it disappear, go away, have less impact? what happens?
>> it's often said everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own set of facts. that's not true in government. politically, they can basically alter, suppress, otherwise rewrite or manipulate information so that it supports a preset agenda. >> has it gone as far as people being threatened with lack of promotion, missing out on raises, not getting assignments that they're vying for, that kind of more direct and hard-knuckled retaliation? >> sure. but even more than that, people are losing their jobs. in florida, for example, a number of the people who work at the epr are at-will employees and over the last two years there's been rolling purges of the agency. so, for example, if you're a lawyer, you can be fired at will. if you're a supervisor, you can be fired at will. if you transfer to a new position and are under probation for a year, you can be fired at will during that one-year period. so everyone is scared to death not just of bad assignments but
papers. >> but the bottom line for the state's response to your problem is they say you used your position as a state employee to make a political statement. is affirming in your few that the keystone xl pipeline would lead statement? >> i view it not as a political statement. i view it as a scientific statement and that's supported by james hanson of nasa who says it can be game over for the climate. so this the a crucial opportunity to stop the extraction and i think it ties in very closely with the science behind climate change and it's our one opportunity to unite behind let's say no to the keystone xl pipeline and stop climate change. >> isn't florida
the american canary in the coast line? isn't most of your state at sea level if water rises? >> we have a tremendous amount of low lying land especially in urbanize areas such as miami and fort lauderdale as well as the repercussions of stronger hurricanes and more extreme or flooding rains. >> jeff, do supervisors, do department chiefs take care not to put these kinds of rules into writing so they could say and have plausible deniability and say we're not -- we don't suppress good science. we want to see the data. but when you got a governor like rick scott of florida who's made it clear that he doesn't believe that this is a scientific fact, that sends a message. >> well, i think it's true that there is no written order in florida. it's just well understood and the fact that the governor's
denial and that he refused to utter the words climate change and they can't point to documents that climate change is assessed and their answer is we monitor conditions but that doesn't say that they're actually calculating sea level rise, factoring it into land use planning, redrawing flooding maps all the things other doing. florida has its head in sinking sand. as in alaska, the standard they have is it's about information control. nobody can say anything not on the preapproved talking points and if it's not there, you can't say it. >> new jersey was the state worst smacked by superstorm sandy. how has chris christie who's sort of gone back and forth on this issue handled it there? >> he's currently in the denier camp. all the post sandy recovery
reports have been sensored of recommendations to move -- armered structures that have become the state policy. so increasingly there's armored armored -- new jersey is stronger than the storm and they will rebuild exactly as before in place. >> is somewhere in florida making measurements of rising water tables or beach erosion? i know your story. am i likely to run into my boss' office with my hair own fire and talk about a sinking florida or is mark's example something to think about before i do that? >> certainly has to give people pause as to the freedom to discuss this issue and address it.
>> do you think you're going to get your job back? >> i have no idea. i'm trying my best to do as they're asking but it's difficult in a timely fashion and we'll see if that can get me back to my job. i enjoyed doing my job and would be glad to return to it. gentlemen, thank you both. >> thank you of america's two powerful political parties, the leaders of one are on the record as skeptics about climate change. from presidents and presidential nominees all the way down to state legislators, republicans have pushed back on the idea that human activity can alter the climate. our next guest, a conservative conservative republican says his party can recognize the science. stay with us. it's inside story.
when you look at an assembled graphic of the large number of republican politicians said to be thinking about running for president, there's a great deal of agreement on one issue, that the jury is still out. the science is still inconclusive that human activity may not be altering the climate. the first campaign made its official start with ted cruz announcing his candidacy at liberty university in virginia. in an interview with the texas tribune, he said on the global warming alarmists, anyone who actually points to the evidence that disproves their claims, they don't engage in debate. what do they do? scream you're a denier. today the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat earthers. it used to be that it is
accepted scientific wisdom the earth is flat and this heretic named galileo was called a denier. we're now joined by a veteran gop legislator who paid a political price for his acceptance of the idea that humans are involved in climate change. he served six terms in congress from rural south carolina. he's the founder and executive director of the energy and enterprise initiative at george mason university. he's talking to us from florida. are you surprised that even at this late date, here we are in 2015 politics is still trumping science in some of these arguments and some of these debates? >> yeah, it's a couple of things. one is it's a tribal affiliation. you know, unfortunately, human
beings really are somewhat tribal, particularly political human beings. that's part of the challenge, that it seems to be the other tribe, the liberals that are interested in climate change or addressing climate change. what we've got to do is turn that around and show that we can match their sentiment with a free enterprise solution that actually works. and that's the other thing, ray. i think the reason a lot of conservative politicians have rejected action is because they just don't like the solution. if we can show them a solution that fits with their values they might be willing to entertain the problem. >> a lot of people have said this is costing us money in ways easy to measure and ways hard to measure. how could you
haar rnessthe marketplace? >> if we can make it so the marketplace is transparent and accountable and there are no subsidies for any fuels so fuels are judged on their closest to actual price, then you have a true market price where the market will judge those prices and consumers will innovate because they have a price signal. this is what we conservatives passionately believe, that price signals work better than say government regulation or something like a cap and trade program that if we send a simple price signal, then what we'll have is consumers driving this demand for invasion. so having fixed the economic problem, then the environmental consequence will take care of
rapidly. >> there's an enormous gop field gathering steam to take a run at the white house in 2016. are there any names you may know from other parts of your life who pop out as somebody who may be able to work against the orthodoxy inside the republican party and give a solution like the one you just gave out to us. >> this is an orthopedic dock doxythat developed during the great recession. that's ending now. we're seeing the back of the great recession. so there are some in this presidential race who may break out and show, you know, we can match the left's sentiment with a solution on the right that
uses the market forces we know will work. for example, lindsey graham of south carolina is -- has had some very positive things to say about action on climate. jeb bush is a guy that i know looks for intellectual data on the subject. and ranked pauld paulmay take a breakout position on climate breaking out of that temporary orthodoxy that like i say recession. >> but aren't a lot of people preparing their 2016 campaigns for offices high and low afraid to deviate on this? afraid and i think with reasonable cause that they'll be punished? >> what they say is the pioneers take the arrows and is settlers
get the land. i think what's going to happen though, ray -- gop -- it's a very different electorate than in if last two psych cycles. this time there will be purplish states having senate races and the presidential race will of course have a much larger turnout so in that circumstance i think we'll see republicans, conservatives realizing a need to come to a solution that america will come towards its normal dna of being solution agents rather than scapegoat hunters. and in that situation you have to be offering a solution. we have one in free enterprise and it will sort this out. >> thank you for talking to us, sir. >> great to be with you, ray. thank you
in advance of the next round of united nations climate talks, president obama just submitted to the u.n. our intended nationally determined contribution on green house gas emissions. it's a big cut over the next ten years. our science and technology correspondent helps us sort of the rhetoric and reality next on inside story. >> fall of saigon, forty years later. >> we have no idea how many were killed. >> unanswered questions, a botched withdrawal lives lost. examining the impact that still resonates today. a special report continues tomorrow, 10:00 eastern. on al jazeera america.
so we're going to now widen the focus from florida to the united states to the whole planet. president obama has given a down payment on long term goals for the reduction of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. al jazeera's science and technology correspondent, jake ward, joins me now to talk about it. it looks like it obliges the
united states to aim toward some pretty ambitious goals. >> that's right. this is an interesting build up to the december deadline in paris that the whole world is expected to meet. the united states has said it's going to try to cut its emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. and that's pretty ambitious. the united states is the second greatest emitter of carbon dioxide after china and third place is a long way behind us. so this is a tremendous amounts of cuts that is really going to require doubling our emissions reduction after the year 2020. effort. >> so is using what we were emitting ten years ago as a baseline and saying to the world the united states as a whole will only emit about three quarters of that amount that we were ten years ago? >> that's right. i mean, each country is trying to sort of figure out a moment in its history to hold itself against, a benchmark that makes
sense. so in this case, 2005 is just sort of the right benchmark for the united states. it was when we sort of just started to get it together. so you're absolutely right, it's going to require a massive national effort. it's a three quarters reduction. and the ways have not been made clear of how to do it. president obama has talked about bringing in some tighter restrictions on power plants. changing emission standards and going after specific green house gases but this is like saying we're going to throw this fancy party and you should come but not really revealing what's on the menu or how it's cooked. it's all a gesture of intention. it's like a poker game. everybody is bluffing and moving around but with the united states putting its hand down but it's not sure exactly what it's going to mean when the game ends in december in paris. >> well the other pig player at the table is china and they're part of the reason why we're doing this at all, aren't they? >> absolutely right. without china, this all falls apart.
china is far and away the greatest emissions -- emits for carbon dioxide than anyone else. china and the u.s. count for a lot of our global emissions. right now china is in theory has a hand shake deal with the united states in which those countries have said that they're going to make these same kinds of cuts we're seeing announced now. in china's case, theirs is about peaking in a certain year. 2030 they say will be their peak year for emissions but for them to pull that off, that's going to require them literally taking all of their current coal fired electrical generation and making all of that a zero emissions nuclear solar and wind powered thing. it's literally as if china is going to create the entire electrical capacity of the united states again out of zero emissions technology to meet the
deal. they have not actually put out an indc, an intention document, the way the united states and just a couple of other players have so far. >> let's the end where we begin. nra. delays been arguing about whether state scientists can talk about climate change in their official documents. we're already seeing the affects of a changed climate in florida. >> absolutely. everyone when they think about climate change they think how could this affect me today and sort of the great irony of this whole controversy around the words climate change in florida, florida of all the states is feeling it fastest and most tangibly at the moment. two termites indigenous really to florida, they're brought there usually on cargo ships. those two types of termites because of climate change have begun to
mate together caused by warmer and longer mating seasons. so now a hybrid termite has emerged from this that we don't know how to deal with that. couple that with the challenge of being a homeowner on the water level and between rising seas and new termites, it's a tough thing that they're not even allowed to say the words climate change in a state that's are. >> jake, thanks for talking with us tomorrow, the american pharmacist association injected itself into the death penalty debate by pressing its members not to provide drugs used in executions. it's an attempt to complicate state's efforts to put people to death. we'll saw to a state legislator who fought for the firing squad to be reintroduced to his state. thanks for joining us on this edition of "inside story."
watch us next time. in washington, i'm ray suarez. >> the u.n. launches relief operation. >> welcome to al jazeera. live from our headquarters in doha. also ahead the u.n. suspends a senior aid worker for leaking a report that accuses french peace keepers of child abuse in the central africa republic. arrests in new york city why rallies in solid